Leader of Men

Reflecting on the troubles of Andy Reid's sons

It’s low risk, he said.

I’m paraphrasing, but that’s what my dad said when I asked him why he was more emotionally available to the high school students he mentored during his teaching career than he was to me when I was a kid.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation in the days since I read that Britt Reid drove his car into two others on an interstate on-ramp, critically injuring a 5-year old. The arresting officer smelled alcohol on Reid’s breath, Reid admitted to drinking prior to the crash, and impairment is being investigated as a possible cause of the crash. It’s a sad story, remarkable only because Reid was just days away from coaching the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl as part of his father Andy’s staff.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation with my dad in the days since Britt Reid’s latest crash because it made me remember that Britt’s brother Garrett Reid fatally overdosed at the Philadelphia Eagles’ training camp when his father was the head coach there.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation with my dad because Andy Reid is a beloved figure in professional football. His dedication to maximizing athlete's abilities and respecting their humanity inspires fealty and affection from players past and present.

It’s low risk, my dad said. If his students disappointed or rejected him there would be a new class the following year. Comparatively, I guess, the risk posed by emotional engagement with me was catastrophic. There wasn’t another son coming through the door every following August.

This isn’t a criticism of Andy Reid’s parenting. I don’t know the man and I don’t know his sons. But the broad strokes resemble a case study I’ve read before.

I know my dad loves me. I know he always has. But that didn’t stop me from feeling like there was something I needed from him that I never got. Something I sought out in different ways, with different people, over a lot of years. Luckily, I never bounced in and out of rehab. I never spent time in jail. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t harm myself and others along the way.

I’ve had to learn how to provide that missing something for myself while at the same time learning how to be present for my son — not just in the ways I know how to be but in the ways that he needs. Because it doesn’t matter how well I show up for other peoples’ kids if I don’t show up for my own.